Venus & the Cat launched late 2020 with one ambition – to fuse great British street art with classical, heritage homeware, creating a completely unique clash between the old tradition of interior style and the new and most exciting opportunity for interior décor. It’s ambitious, but we believe in the power of street art to radically transform our living spaces.
But how did the Venus & the Cat story begin? A lot longer ago than you might think. When? A hot summer day, 2003. Where? A bustling Duke Street, Brighton. Aimlessly wandering about town we tripped over a few lads spray painting portraits for sale on the kerb outside Offspring. It was captivating watching them work, some kind of frantic calm, working away at pace but in peace, as the people traffic bustled by. We stood and stared. We hadn’t seen anything like this before. Graffiti was something that happened on walls whilst we slept, usually at our school with a white-wash shelf life, or so we thought. As we stood and watched this work in motion, we saw skill and craft, artistry at work. And in plain sight. And commanding a price.
Fast forward… about five hours. We were fixing up for the night in the Prince Albert (a street art inspiration in our hearts) when we bumped into the same lads we’d watched earlier that day. We struck up a chat. They hadn’t sold much that day, but their passion was infectious. They’d been joined by another hustling, bustling rag-tag member of their crew who was fresh off a train from France. It was a special trip he’d made overnight to paint a mural on a school wall he’d been planning for months. The dedication left an impression on us, even if we didn’t totally understand it. They told us how they were starting to do work for people. Mainly skateboards, some walls, mostly bars… anything that people asked them to do. They believed in the power of street art to bring any functional daily object or environment to life and had big plans to create a real gig of it. It wasn’t much more than a few months and Rarekind was open for business.
Our next unique encounter at the Albert (showing off its fresh new Banksy ‘Kissing Coppers’, nestling next to George Best scratching his arse) started with a typically unexpected meeting of the minds – us, some indie types, got into a decent chat with the local goth kids waiting for band night to kick off in earnest. We wondered who the distinguished gent sat alone at the bar attracting all the stares happened to be. Being of the gregarious ilk we asked if he fancied a beer. He did. And a few more besides. And so began a night spent with David Soul (or Hutch, to people of a certain vintage). He was playing Jerry Springer in a stage show in London, but the Albert was his south coast escape. As odd chance would have it, Hutch was a street art connoisseur. We talked about the beautifully spray canned walls of the Albert (if you haven’t seen them, go, check out a street-art and independent music scene supportive business) and he expressed his sadness that too often street work is whitewashed. Art destroyed. Burn the libraries. He told us about a project he was working on to buy up private wall space across Hollywood Hills to give kids a space to express themselves legally and free of fear that their work will disappear overnight. It smacked us in the face that street art wasn’t a niche love. Eyes opened to a wider world.
You only had to visit Art Republic on Brighton’s Bond Street to see how the Picasso and Rembrandt prints were being gradually usurped by street art, crossing the threshold into our homes. We loved it. We started collecting it. Slowly, but surely. RYCA came first. Harry Fett (#35), quickly followed by Ghostbusters RED (#6). And in our humble opinion, street art began to inform much of the pop art we started to see crop up in ‘regular’ high street galleries. There’s a rich history, of course, and our education was only just beginning, but popularity was growing, and it was obvious. We started an obsession with Dave White and his ‘Flying Owl’ soon soared across our living room wall.
By then, though, we’d left Brighton and migrated north to the Capital, and settled in Dulwich. What a treat awaited us. Being on Brixton’s doorstep and having Herne Hill, Crystal Palace, Peckham and the curiosities of Dulwich village to peruse, we found street art everywhere. We’d read about Stik. Seeing one in front of us felt like meeting a celebrity. You stand a little in awe, check if it’s really happening. Then realise it’s on your walk to the local. It becomes a friend. A little check-in each time you head out. This stuff used to be illegal. Now it’s commissioned. Valuable. Cut it out and it goes to auction. Who’d have thought we’d see it all across the Dulwich estate?
Today Venus & the Cat hails from Walthamstow, where we’re surrounded by the fruits of Wood Street Walls’ tireless work to create mural space for beautiful art and grow a self-supportive economy around the form. A short stroll around the borough will take you past an outdoor gallery of STATIC, Hatch, XENX, Katrina Russell-Adams, Toasters, Frankie Strand, Invader, SHOK-1, Carl Cashman, Remi Rough, Georgia Hill, Mark McClure, Connor Harrington, Fanakapan, ATMA and many more. We also have a local business scene appreciative of the art, with so many bars, restaurants, pubs and shops in east London embracing the art form. If you’re in the area, make sure to visit Yard Sale, Arte e pasta or the Bell, each act as galleries of street art.
And so it struck us. This art literally transforms living spaces. It creates wellness, happiness, joy, if not debate, curiosity and friction. And then when we bring it into our home it becomes deeply personal, a choice we make about who we are and what we surround ourselves with. But why should it stop with our walls? Why should street art live only on the two-dimensional canvasses that hang around our perimeter, so far away from the centre of the room? We all put art on our walls. Why don't we put art on the things and items around us, that surround us and that we touch and hold every day? We’re not talking about KAWS Companions or MEDICOM toys, love them as we do and hugely desirable as they are, but the objects that exist in our homes every day?
As Walthamstow's arts and crafts pioneer William Morris once said, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. We decided to set about creating both useful, functional and beautiful new ways for street art and urban illustration to bring our homes to life.
We explored the most powerful way to bring street art to life on homeware - the indoor pots, plates, cups, jugs and vases that so many of us have in our homes. Collectible, beautiful, usable, functional, brilliantly made and often cherished items of home decor. We explored the world of ceramics and learned that only the pure quality of fine bone china could truly bring the richness of street art colour to life, that only the finest materials would do the work justice. We set about creating the most beautiful, entirely bespoke, classically crafted, premium homeware that we could.
From there we sought out some of our favourite homegrown street art talent to help us on our journey. Supporting British is key for us, contributing in some way to local creativity, arts, the artistic economy, the ceramic heritage of the Potteries and the sustainability of our rich heritage in art and street art. We worked directly with our friends at Wood Street Walls and were lucky enough to meet Hatch, Katrina Russell-Adams and Carl Cashman. Each has a mural no more than five minutes’ walk from where we live and in some way were already present in our lives. Now we got to collaborate and co-create with them, learning all the while as we did how to bring this concept to life in truly stunning limited-edition pieces.
In a few short months people started to take note. Enquiries came in from art galleries, we featured in the likes of Design Milk, the Telegraph, Décor Punk, People of Print and more besides, with new features to see in the coming months. We hope that you continue to follow our journey and watch out for us over the coming years. Lockdowns have made our project challenging, given that each individual item of homeware takes more than 20 people to create by hand, from the artists themselves to the pottery designers, craftsmen, lithographers, silkcreeners and so on. The process is truly astounding. But we will have new products, new artist collaborations and more reasons for you to fill your home with our joyous clash of classical, heritage homeware and great British street art.